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Sunday, June 12, 2022

Friday, November 17, 2017

All Or None - Finding The Unique Balance In Trust

TRUST: FIRM BELIEF IN THE RELIABILITY, TRUTH, ABILITY OR STRENGTH OF SOMEONE OR SOMETHING.

Trust is a big issue in our house. The majority of us have trust issues, myself included. A baby is born primed to build on the trust foundation that has already begun in the womb. However when a baby doesn't receive the nurture he needs, he doesn't feel safe and the trust pattern doesn't develop. This pattern of trust can be disrupted by many things, maternal distress, lack of nurture, if baby is a preemie or needs extensive medical procedures and/or has unabated pain. In my post, Anxiety - The Alarm Of Being Separated I wrote that it isn't necessarily the type/severity of a situation that raises alarm but how the child perceives it. If a child feels there is no way out, if he has no one to look out for him, he will be a fearful child. In reality he may have loving parents but in his mind he is all alone. This is why it is so important to not only practice attachment parenting but to make sure your child is feeling loved and secure. Looking back, that is where we messed up. We practiced TBRI but due to some of our children's unique needs, they weren't getting the message and their attachment struggles continued unabated. 

Joseph trusts everyone and Kiana trusts no one, while I only trust those who have proved themselves trustworthy. I can understand  both of my children's needs, although I can certainly relate to Kiana much more than Joseph in this area. Due to his FASD, Joseph has no sense of stranger danger, thus everyone is his friend. He cannot read body language which would tip most people off as to whether someone is a friend or foe.

Kiana spent her early months feeling fearful and insecure. When she came to us, she was pretty much on target developmentally and not knowing anything of attachment disorders we assumed all was well. She presented well and I think she would have been okay if we hadn't brought two more baby's into our home. Having three attachment challenged baby's and no knowledge of attachment is a recipe for disaster! But like so many other parents, we meant well. We thought food and love was all they needed to thrive. In hindsight I should have been wearing each of the children in a sling, bottle feeding them, massaging them and giving each one my undivided attention. I didn't, not least because it was impossible and so we exacerbated the problem.

Now I have one child who needs to be watched every moment in public because he will go with anyone. He will talk to anyone and tell them anything they wish to know. He has no sense of what is an appropriate conversation. You ask him a question and he will tell you what he thinks you want to hear. Scary stuff in this world where no one is exempt from being accused of abusing their children. Kiana on the other hand is too scared to trust Dean or I for the love and nurture she needs so she will seek it out from other people. When we go away she has no qualms about asking the hostess for things. She will cuddle up to people, look them in the eye and act as though she totally adores them. In reality she is seeking love and nurture but is too scared to get it from her parents so she seeks it from other people with whom she doesn't have to maintain an ongoing relationship. 

This means my children look like the most outgoing loving children while their parents present as overbearing and strict. This presentation makes people even more "concerned" about our children which makes them dote on them all the more. 

After a recent situation I called Kiana out on her actions. By the way, she was totally unaware why she acts as she does. I figured at 10 years of age and because she truly wants to trust us but doesn't dare, perhaps a brief lesson on attachment, such as how it occurs and what it looks like in an older child was in order. I told her what had happened - she had soaked up love from someone else and as a result was being, lets just use the word challenging! Then explained that when a child gets love from other people he doesn't need to get it from his parents. That is okay for a well attached child but devastating for a child who is scared of trust. She understood that so I asked how she thinks __________ would have reacted if she would have acted in such a manner towards them. She looked at me and said, "____________ would have given me consequences!" I almost laughed because while I don't think she would have been given a consequence, she would have been told to go play, which would have felt like one. Poor girl, no child should have an  attachment disorder and brain inflammation! If I am honest, there are days I feel no parent should have to deal with such a situation either!

We have had some late night's with Kiana this week. She is fearful and dreams up ways to keep herself safe. The trouble is her "backup" makes her uneasy so she acts out and I get the brunt of her anxiety. Last night I told her about the times when I struggled with anxiety and depression and had feelings and fears similar to what she is experiencing. She wondered how I got better and Dean said, "Mom had to talk and use true words." One of Kiana's coping mechanisms is to tell us stories that are close to the truth but still don't reveal her deep fears and emotions. She wasn't sure about that because using true words means she is giving us a level of trust which makes her very uncomfortable. You know I never dreamed I would be thankful for those months of anxiety and depression, they were awful but now I can look back and pull out bits and pieces and they help Kiana. Please pray for Kiana, she is in a vulnerable place right now, Dean and I covet your prayers as well. 

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Another Learning Curve - Kiana's Journey With Lyme Disease

I am going to attempt to post an update on Kiana's Lyme journey. As some of you know the doctor I wrote about in this post: We Have Hope Once More! Told us that since Kiana's Lyme numbers are coming down, we no longer need to treat the Lyme. According to her, the symptoms we were seeing (her symptoms wax n wane but weren't much better) were due to inflammation, the residual affects of Lyme. She suggested putting Kiana on an SSRI to help those symptoms but Dean and I both felt that what we are seeing is not a psychiatric problem. So we began searching for a doctor AGAIN! Thankfully we found a doctor who thought he could help us without the use of psych meds. We spent 3.5 hours in his office learning about which foods she needs to feed her cells which in turn will strengthen her immune system which will hopefully be able to eradicate Lyme. In a nutshell, we can no longer "feed her with food from the grocery store." Instead we need whole foods, natural, organic foods. No preservatives, no gluten, no sugar and no dairy unless it meets certain criteria. He had history/science to back up all of his claims but what he was suggesting would require totally revamping our diet. He said this diet change would also help my brain heal from the SNRI and be good for Joseph due to the damage done to his brain by alcohol. 

I was a bit skeptical, mostly because it sounded so extreme but I agreed to go into it with an open mind. Yesterday my sister in law loaned me the book, Childhood Development: Taking The Neurological Voyage To Maturity and it emphasized everything Dr. B was recommending. This same sister in law has a grain mill and offered to grind some grain for me, plus she gave me some recipe's using these grains. All that made us feel that this is something we are to pursue although if I am totally honest, I don't want to.

This morning I was pondering this and I thought, "Isn't it enough that we parent different than the typical family, we home school because our children cannot handle separation and now we have to eat different too?" Then I though, "Perhaps changing our diet should have been obvious piece to the puzzle and I am just a slow learner!"


Kiana is still taking her supplements. Dr. B added a few and took one away when he saw the ingredients. When he told us what was in the capsules, we agreed that there was no need to have that foreign matter in her diet! He said she should be a changed girl in a year but he expects a faster response since she is a child. And so the Zimmerman family is about to embark on yet another journey! By the way, I would be totally content if we didn't have to learn all this stuff but if it helps our children, we want to be willing!

So if you have been eating organic, "whole foods," and have advice or tips for me, I am all ears!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Where Are The Casserole's - Helping Struggling Adoptive Families




I hesitate to write this post but for the sake of so many hurting family's out there, I am going to stick out my neck and share what is on my heart. I have a small bulletin board in my kitchen where I hang the encouraging cards and note's we have received in the past. They are a visual reminder that people are praying for us and are such an encouragement. As I looked over the cards this morning, I was struck again by how we as a society do such an awesome job helping out during a physical illness but we fall short when there is a mental illness, especially when it is ongoing. Awhile ago there was a short video clip floating around my adoption support group. This video was an interview with mom's who have adopted children with attachment difficulties. When asked what is different about attachment issues versus a critical health diagnosis, one mom spoke up, "The casserole's." She explained that when her daughter was injured, their neighbors and friends brought casserole's to show their support but when their son had a mental health crisis and needed to be hospitalized, no one brought casserole's. This video brought a great deal of response from the group because this is seems to be a universal problem. 

Now before anyone feels they left their friends or family down, let me share what a dear friend once told me. During the time Braden was home and later at TAP and we were struggling to find our way, I was sharing my heartache with a friend who has walked this very same road. She said, "Sandra, I think part of the reason people don't realize how desperately we need help is because we appear to have it all together. We don't look like we need help!" That was quite a new thought to me because in all honesty I thought it was obvious to everyone that we as a family were shattered and barely hanging on. I thought people understood that we sometimes considered extreme actions to end this nightmare we were living. But then I got to thinking, do I share this? Do I ask my sisters in the church, family and friends to pray for emotional/physical safety for our family, not because of what my child may do but because of what I may do? Of course not! Although to be completely honest, part of the reason I didn't share was the fear of how such a deep heart cry would be received. I knew if anyone so much as hinted that all parents feel this way at one time or another, it would be enough to send me over the edge. Why? Because this pain was different than the - I am so tired of this pain that I am going to run away, only to wake up the next day/week or month with renewed vigor. This was a pain that had built up over years of hurt and betrayal.

When we were looking at daily trips to West Chester for IV therapy and then when Kiana developed a blood clot and needed her line removed, we were blessed with cards, money, gifts and meals. The gifts were all greatly appreciated but in all honesty, those medical things were not that big in the face of what we deal with and have dealt with on the mental health front. Why? Partly because we knew people had our back. I had people lining up to provide babysitting while I took Kiana for treatments. Our church planned to bring meals in twice a week, or more if I felt we needed it. People went out of their way to support us and we felt so blessed!

I think, and this is just my theory, that the reason that the casserole's don't come in when someone suffers from a mental health problem is because many people can't relate. This is especially true when it is an adopted child diagnosed with an attachment disorder.  We are all  susceptible to illness, in fact, sooner or later we will all face a devastating illness or accident in our immediate or extended family. What many won't experience is parenting a child with an attachment disorder. This means most people don't recognize the need to assist these family's.

Since I have begun blogging Dean and I have had the privilege of sharing what we have learned with other adoptive parents. We feel it is one of the redeeming aspects of the painful things we as a family have experienced over the past years. A few of the things I hear time and again is, "I feel so alone, no one can see what our family is going through," or "I feel guilty asking for help because we chose to adopt."  

Adoption is a blessing, but it is hard work. Many parents find their child will not be able to live alone due to the effects of drugs/alcohol. These family's become tired, they grow weary of the constant supervision their children need. These children often need ongoing therapy and medication to give them the best opportunity to enjoy life and it gets costly. Parent's tell me, "I wish I could give my son/daughter everything he/she needs but we can't afford it."

So if you are looking for someone to bless in the coming weeks and months consider an adoptive family. Maybe they are struggling more than you would ever dream.

Disclaimer: I wrote this because it has been what I am hearing as a need from other adoptive family's, not because I am begging for handouts! :) 

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Anxiety - The Alarm Of Being Separated



Last night I listened to Gordon Neufeld talking about, Making Sense of Anxiety In Children And Youth. And I was struck that despite our best efforts in attachment parenting we were still missing a vital component.

Gordon begins by saying that one of our biggest mistakes when treating childhood anxiety, is that we still use adult methods such as rationalizing irrational thoughts and prescribing medication. We focus on the symptoms versus the root cause. Amen, I heartily agree with that one! While psych meds can be a blessing, the more I learn about them, the more I realize they are way over prescribed and rather than "heal" a patient they simply alleviate the symptoms leaving the root cause to manifest itself in other ways. Of course there are times when medication is necessary for someone to begin healing but that isn't what I am here to share today.

Anxiety is a vague sense of feeling unsafe and unease characterized by apprehension which is both cognitive and emotional, along with a restless sense of what it is all about.

We are born with an already intact alarm system, in fact this alarm system is developed around 6 months gestation. What is the alarm system? It is a complex system that involves the limbic and emotional system. When you are alarmed your emotions are activated and your limbic system senses this (similar to a startle response). The alarm system makes you aware that something is wrong and our perception of our world fills in information. There is a heart response, then a mind response but this is all below the level of consciousness. Even though we are not consciously aware of all that is happening, the process brings emotions.

There is the belief that how you respond is most determined by what you see and unless we as parents "see" correctly, we won't respond correctly. 

When a child is about to enter a street you raise your voice and hope to see that light of recognition in their eye which signifies their alarm system has been activated. He will respond to your call with, "What?" And you will tell them. This is how the alarm system is supposed to work but for many it doesn't.

A child is faced with many devastating experiences; daddy being gone, loss of a loved one etc. but there is nothing the child can do about these experiences and a sense of futility comes over the child. When this happens the amygdala sends a signal to the lacrimal gland and the eyes water. When we are up against something we cannot change we become transformed through the process of adaptation. There are many kinds of tears but the tears of futility are a special kind, requiring a soft heart and a safe place for the child to experience them. Gordon said that many people with whom he worked both in private practice and in the prison system are dry eyed, they have lost the tears of futility. We witnessed this first hand with Braden although of course we weren't aware of this at the time. When a child truely experiences futile tears, behaviors melt away in their wake, leaving an hour or more where those behaviors are totally gone. We have seen this first hand as well. When Kiana truly cries those tears of futility, she is soft, safe and secure and all the behaviors that plague her are gone.

Anxiety is a matter of the heart, you can't think yourself out of this one, the more you think, the more anxious you become. We are created to find rest and relief which is why children need their tears when faced with futile situations, it leads to resilience, the brain realizes it can survive. The answer to anxiety has to do with tears of futility.

When lacking tears of futility another pathway opens, the path of courage or the path of things we treasure. We need to fight for the things we treasure and that brings mixed feelings. Until age 6 many children aren't able to reach a resolution to their sense of alarm. This leaves a child with the, "I want to go, I don't want to go" feeling but he isn't even aware that is what is going on. Typically in such a situation the child will begin to cry (and we as parent brush it off as childishness, which it is.) However some children, especially those who have learned not to cry, don't shed any tears and the alarm goes louder and higher. 

We know that feelings of alarm should move us...
....to caution if possible
... to cry if the situation is futile
.... to take courage in what alarms us in our way.
As parents we are traffic directors, deciding which route our child should take in any given situation. To help move to tears or to courage. 

Most neuroscientists have not yet figured out why this alarm system is so important because they don't understand the attachment theory. Attachment - facing the loss or lack of proximity with what or to whom we are attached. Separation is what alarms us so much. Attachment is our preeminent need, the less developed we are the greater the need. Pursuit of proximity is all about being with mom and dad or a teddy, sibling etc. when separated it triggers an alarm because we need proximity for our survival, it is a preeminent need. Every time an infant faces separation, it triggers the alarm. Ideally the first 6 years are all about relationships. Year after year another level of understanding of proximity, thus understanding of separation develops. Which means a child's "opportunity" to experience separation increases.

We typically think of attachment growing through the senses such as sight, smell, hearing and touch but in reality it is all about closeness and proximity.

By 2nd year the child's life is all about becoming "like." We feel close to those we are like but that opens another way of separation. To be different than, gives way to anxiety.

By 3rd year the child wants to belong, to be on the same side as. When the child doesn't experience a sense of belonging with those to whom he is attached, the alarm goes off.

By 4th year it is incredibly important for the child to matter. He feels close to those to whom he considers dear and when he doesn't experience that closeness, the alarm goes off.

By 5 yrs he becomes involved. He puts his heart into whatever he is attached to. But when you give your heart away it can be broken. another form of separation. If all develops well he realizes that to be known is to have no secrets that will come between. It alarms a child greatly when he has a secret which he cannot afford to tell mom. The alarm has to be silenced. Think of how often a child experiences separation, how often that alarm goes off:
bedtime is a big one
school
daycare
rival with a sibling for parents attention
in all these things he is experiencing a sense of separation.
When faced with separation, we are blinded to the reason. Separation is a significant experience but it is the vulnerability that is too much to bear. In our emotions we feel this deep wound and defenses are erected while other feelings are numbed out. The brain automatically tunes out perceptions that would lead to vulnerability. the most vulnerable of feelings are:
maternal rejection
separation from life we are used to
not being invited into the primary attachments presence.

The children with whom I work cannot name these rejections because when a separation becomes that intimate, a child cannot see it. Major rejections cause us to become blinded to even periphery rejections such as not being included in a party, missing teddy bear, different than others etc...

When we become blinded by the experiences that affect us the most it orphans the feelings of alarm, divorcing them from the cause. The brain cannot stand this and tries to figure out what is wrong. The brain is a "meaning making" organism and needs to know what is wrong. When it isn't given information it begins inventing reasons. the brain expresses alarm to what can be seen but since it is blinded it gives rise to obsessions that are irrational reasons for alarm. Gordon calls these irrational reasons, "Cognitive backfill." When the brain simply invents reasons it has certain themes it tends to follow such as, something is out of order and I am alarmed. Or somethings out to get me, paranoia of a circumstance or situation connected to the alarm which brings about phobia's.

All of these things come about because we are blinded by what is underneath - the separation we are experiencing. We call this, the alarm without eyes.

How does a sense of blindness disable the alarm system?
We know we can be defended against something that is too much to bear if it is situational but the problem occurs when our senses get stuck and our perception is knocked out. The brain can even knock out some feelings and impulses. An example is the child who doesn't heed caution. He becomes restless and reckless. We have agitation with no apprehension. The child doesn't say, "I don't feel safe." In fact he uses no safety language at all and if you were to ask him if he is scared, he will say no. But we are all scared! 

Even deeper: is the child who's brain goes right to physiology- this child can present as cool as a cucumber. You will never know he is alarmed. This child seeks adrenaline that is associated with the alarm system. These children do things like cutting just for the adrenaline rush. Our children are so highly alarmed they are becoming defended against it. Now we have:
-Anxiety based problems - not feeling safe, behaviors, phobia's, nightmares OCD
-Agitation based problems - this child doesn't feel unsafe. He is not scared or restless, he is reckless, dangerous constantly in harms way, implusive.
- Adrenaline based problems - devoid of feeling of alarm, attracted to what alarms, lacks attachment to conscience and engages in alarming behavior.

In this context we see that anxiety based problems are not that bad in relation to the other two. Anxiety makes you feel miserable but in reality you are better off than the one who doesn't feel pain. Anxiety loops and loops with no way out giving you no way to deal with source or find an outlet. Anxiety is incredibly uncomfortable so the child chews his nails, suck's on clothing or hands because this evokes the parasympathetic nervous system.

Some ways that we are separating our children and setting off the alarm is when we place them in time out or when we give a consequence and seek to find what the child is attached to so you can take it and use it against them. 

Separation is a vulnerability that is too much to bear. We get alarmed when faced with separation.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Anxiety

Anxiety: A feeling of worry or fear strong enough to interfere with ones daily activities.


My withdrawal has been a challenge to deal with lately. My symptoms change daily, with the worst ones typically lasting a few weeks. My most recent symptom is anxiety. While I hate it, I am also a wee bit thankful for it because it helps me understand my children better. 

The best way I can think to describe anxiety is a feeling of dread or doom. The feeling sweeps over me and I think, "Do I feel this way because something is going to happen and I am being warned?" Then I remember, this is just anxiety again and I force myself to quit worrying about the latest fear my brain has created. Since I am aware of the thought process that exacerbate's anxiety it is a bit easier for me to ward it off. 

Several of our children struggle with anxiety and one would think having dealt with it personally would make it easier to relate to them, sadly it doesn't always work that way.

Joseph has anxiety due to his FASD. He cannot rationalize, doesn't understand his world and is out of tune with his body and emotions. The perfect atmosphere for anxiety to percolate.

Lyme disease and PANS have brought about intense anxiety for Kiana. Along with anxiety, she suffers from intrusive thoughts which she despises and fears. She doesn't like bedtime because she worries that the intrusive thoughts will take over which causes anxiety which in turn stimulate her intrusive thoughts and round we go. Keeping her on oral anti inflammatory meds have helped keep her brain inflammation down. since the inflammation is the source of her negative thought patterns. 

This is some of what we deal with on a daily basis, manageable but frustrating. Then Dean went on an overnight business trip and the children's anxiety went through the roof. Kiana is certain her dad won't come home again. Nothing I say or do, makes her feel any better. Lia walked around sobbing yesterday because, "I just wish dad was home!" 

Our house was the scene of much wailing and lamenting yesterday morning. Today the wailing turned to rage. I feared for our patio door but once more it stayed in one piece despite the rough treatment it was getting. I couldn't make sense of it. They know Dean is coming home tonight so why all the big feelings? As I pondered it, it struck me, they are sure dad isn't coming home and since dad is supposed to be home tonight, they will soon be faced with their worst fear (or so they think.) Kiana's anxiety was so high today she spent the day in bed reading her new library books. I figured since she isn't hurting herself or disturbing the rest of the family, school work can just go on the back burner for the day. 

We can usually help our children through emotional junk by getting them to talk but they don't have words for their anxiety. They just say, "I am mad about something but I don't know what!" If anyone has advice for childhood anxiety, I am all ears.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Why Parents Of Attachment Challenged Children Are At Risk



A mother recently shared that when her child with RAD was still at home she realized she was as capable of evil as any other person. A child/teen/adult with attachment disorder will do anything to gain control. There are reasons for this which I won't go into here, but suffice it to say a child who has reached this level of control has already undergone tremendous pain of his own and is terrified of a relationship with anyone.

We read horrible stories in the news and say, "What is wrong with people, how could they do something so terrible to a child?" I am not in any way condoning such actions but I can see how parents reach the brink of snapping and why some cross the line.

When we had our forensic evaluation prior to adopting Lia, the man who did the evaluation said most people don't intentionally abuse their children. The line between discipline and abuse can be so fine that many people aren't aware they have even crossed it. When their child's behavior continues to intensify, they increase disciplinary measure's which quickly crosses over into abuse. 

You say, how can that happen? I think for many people it is unimaginable because they have never been responsible for a child who daily, hourly pushes them to the brink of snapping, then steps back, smirks to himself and pushes just a wee bit further. It begins to feel like a game of cat n mouse, with you as the parent being the mouse. You are on hyper alert at all times because you know your child is capable of doing bodily or emotional damage to you and your family. It is a control battle and when the child knows he has you on edge he will do things just to see if he can make you lose control. He knows if he can make you crack he is in control and that makes him feel powerful. 

When you are fearful of what your child may do and he goes out of his way to scare you or let you know he is watching you, it is enough to unnerve you. 

When your child refuses to eat then begs for food or eats from the trash can you soon begin to feel bitter. Worse yet, if CPS is watching your family such behavior signifies to them that you aren't caring for your child.

Or your child may scream and rage but be as nice as pie when anyone else walks in the door. He may set you up to look like an awful parent when in reality you are doing everything in your power to provide him with a good home. In that environment resentment can quickly gain a foot hold.

Year after year of this behavior wears a person down, especially when the professionals and other people who are supposed to help you insist that there is nothing wrong with your child. Or they may acknowledge there is a problem but say they can't help you leaving you trapped in a cycle of fear and abuse. 

Eventually you get to the place where you no longer trust yourself. When you have been pushed to the point of hurting your child time and again, you begin to doubt your ability to control your actions. Then thoughts of how much easier life would be without your child begin creeping into your head. You ask for help but no one believes you or worse questions you or threatens to take your remaining children. This leaves you feeling that just maybe you are the problem. Maybe there really is something wrong with you and then you lose sight of who you really are. When you can no longer tell fact from fiction and are doing whatever it takes to keep your child from hurting your family, sometimes using methods you never would have dreamed of, you lose sight of reality. You fear you will hurt your child, so you contemplate taking your own life to prevent that from happening. Besides, getting away from this situation looks more appealing all the time. 

And then one day you crack mentally, physically and emotionally and do something you never would have done in your right mind. Then you become a statistic, a newspaper article.... and folks say how could someone do something so horrible. Now you know.

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